There are several different causes of conjunctivitis or pink eye including bacteria, viruses, allergies, chemical splashes in the eye, foreign bodies in the eye or blocked tear ducts in newborn babies. Viral and bacterial causes may occur in one or both eyes, but the symptoms are generally distinct depending on which type of infection is to blame. Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when an allergen such as pollen causes the body to produce immunoglobulin E or IgE, which can trigger inflammation. Conjunctivitis that results from irritation typically results from the process of removing the irritant from the eye rather than from the irritant itself.
There are two reasons why prompt treatment is essential when it comes to conjunctivitis or pink eye. The first complication of pink eye is how contagious it is. It can spread from one eye to the other or from one person to another. Pink eye can be spread by simply touching another person if both people touch their eyes, which is a common practice throughout the day. Additionally, in both children and adults, inflammation of the cornea may occur, which can impact vision significantly. It is essential to visit a physician when inflammation in the eye occurs to undergo prompt treatment for the symptoms.
Symptoms of pink eye can include redness in either one or both of the eyes, itchiness in the affected eye or a gritty feeling in the affected eye. Some forms of conjunctivitis will also present itself with a discharge that can form a crust overnight, preventing the eye from opening normally the following morning. Some forms of conjunctivitis will also present with excessive tearing.
A physician during a medical exam will begin by examining the affected eye or eyes to look for symptoms. They may also take a sample of the secretions from the eye for laboratory analysis if the conjunctivitis appears severe. This is especially true if the cornea is being affected or if the patient is experiencing chronic infections that are not responding well to treatment.
For bacterial conjunctivitis, the most common treatment is an antibiotic eye drop product, which should help the infection heal within a few days. There are also antibiotic eye ointments which are prescribed in children more than adults. For viral conjunctivitis, there is no treatment unless the pink eye is caused by the herpes simplex virus, in which case the physician may recommend an antiviral medication. For allergic conjunctivitis, physicians recommend allergy fighting eye drops or drops that control inflammation such as anti-inflammatory, steroidal or decongestant drops. Knowing which type of conjunctivitis the patient is dealing with is essential in doling out the right treatment. This is because some forms of conjunctivitis will heal on their own (viral conjunctivitis) and some absolutely require treatment in order to prevent further damage to the eye.